Objectives: This study assessed the prevalence rate of generalized anxiety disorder among patients of general practitioners in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden and determined whether general practitioners recognize the condition and its correlates.
Methods: Data were gathered in September 2001. Participating patients received a questionnaire that included the Generalized Anxiety Questionnaire and the Depression Screening Questionnaire. The scale used DSM-IV criteria to identify generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive episode. General practitioners filled in a questionnaire about their patients' mental and physical illnesses, including generalized anxiety and major depressive episode. General practitioners' basic sociodemographic data and professional career information were also gathered.
Results: A total of 648 general practitioners and 8,879 patients participated in the study. The age-standardized rates for generalized anxiety disorder ranged from 4.1 to 6.0 percent for males and from 3.7 to 7.1 percent for females; for major depressive episode the rates ranged from 7.2 to 11.5 percent for males and from 9.9 to 14.2 percent for females. The proportion of generalized anxiety disorder cases recognized by general practitioners varied from 33 percent in Denmark to 53 percent in Norway. Recognition of generalized anxiety disorder by general practitioners was associated with presentation of anxiety problems by the patients. Physical symptoms as a reason for a consultation was associated with lowered recognition of generalized anxiety disorder. Previous diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder or anxiety neurosis were associated with increased recognition of generalized anxiety disorder.
Conclusions: Of the total percentage of cases of generalized anxiety disorder in general practice (4.8 percent for males and 6.0 percent for females), only one-third to one-half of the cases were identified by the general practitioners.